Monday, February 06, 2006

Firearm Death Rates in Iraq and Washington, D.C.

The New York Times has an interesting graphic on the deaths in Iraq in January. According to their report there were 800 total civilian and military deaths in Iraq in January. If my math is correct, with Iraq's population of 26 million, that would be an annualized death rate of 36.9 deaths per 100,000.
I was curious how that compared to similar statistics in the United States for firearm deaths. Although the national firearm death rate is much lower, I was surprised to find that in Washington, D.C. the firearm death rate is 31.2 deaths per 100,000.
Is it possible that the firearm death rate in Washington D.C. is that close to the "firearm" death rate in the war in Iraq? If these numbers are correct, it seems we either have a very serious problem in D.C, a manageable problem in Iraq, or some combination. What am I missing?


Blogger Peggy McGuinness said...

No doubt there is a problem with accidental and intentional firearm deaths in DC, a city (of 500,000) which by the chart you cite, has a firearm death rate three times the national average. Interestingly, of all the US states, California has a population closest to the size of Iraq's (33 million compared to 26 million), but you didn't choose California as a comparison. Perhaps that is because, by your chart, it has a firearm death rate of 9.8 per 100,000, just below the US national average. The selection of statistical "comparators" can give anyone the result he is looking for.

One of the best statistical sources on Iraq, including deaths and casualties broken down into military, civilian, US, non-US, etc., is the Brookings Iraq Index, available here:

2/06/2006 11:43 AM  
Blogger Roger Alford said...


Yes I agree with you completely that D.C. is atypical and that other states like Texas (11 deaths per 100,000) and California (9.8 deaths per 100,000) are also useful comparisons that provide different conclusions. I tried to make that clear by giving a good link that provides all the states' death rates and also by stating that the national average is much lower than D.C.'s.

Roger Alford

2/06/2006 12:36 PM  
Blogger Christopher Le Mon said...

I think that what Roger Alford is missing is found by reading the squib accompanying the NYT graphic:

"In January more than 800 people — soldiers, security officers and civilians — were killed as a result of the insurgency in Iraq."

This figure, then, doesn't include any firearm deaths relating to the commission of crimes (outside of the insurgency), accidents, or suicides. (Given the absence of an insurgency in DC, I would think that every act of gun violence there could fit within those three categories.)

If you added figures relating to criminal, accidental, and suicide firearm deaths in Iraq (were any reliable numbers available) to the figure regarding gun violence solely related to insurgent attacks and U.S. military activities, I imagine you might end up with a figure quite a bit higher than that of our nation's capital.

2/08/2006 5:28 PM  
Blogger Robert said...

I am no expert on statistics but I see a common theme in these comments. Everyone points out that D.C. has a much higher firearm deaths per 100,000 that other areas of the country. Allow me to suggest a possible reason. Perhaps you are not aware of this, but Washington D.C. along with New York City belong to a small minority of areas where ownership of handguns in completely illegal. I do not have the numbers for New Yorks firearm related deaths, but I suspect that like D.C. the firearm related deaths in NYC are much higher than the national average and might also be comparable to Iraq. The point I make is that in Iraq, a warzone, the numbers of deaths by insurgents is similar to the number of deaths by guns in D.C. I would also like to point out that D.C.'s incredible gun death rate resulted from the ban of handguns. Before that ban went into effect the D.C. gun crime rate had been on a steady decline.

3/19/2006 4:30 PM  
Blogger Eric said...


I think you make a very good point. It is clear Roger is not trying to compare the whole US firearm death rate with Iraq, but is pointing out that there are some serious problems here at home. I agree with the point Peggy makes that the figures from Iraq may not include all of the incidents to make a fare comparison. How ever we do not send our children to Iraq. Maybe we should withdraw our children from some of these high crime rate cities?

4/26/2006 12:38 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

DC's numbers are even higher when you consider the fact that the number of people killed in the Iraq insurgency by firearms is smaller than the total, since the insurgency tend to use IED's like roadside bombs, and car bombs. I don't know of any reliable breakdown of numbers from Iraq by cause of death, though.
Of course, DC has a much lower rater of death by IED, though. Although that is only based on my viewing of local news each day, and not any reported statistics.

6/04/2007 4:54 AM  
Blogger Robert Moore said...

The figure for Washington, D.C., is very suspect. The figure of 60 per 100,000 soldiers in Iraq is obviously 60 per MONTH per 100,000. A figure of 80.6 per 100,000 per month for Washington, D.C., would imply, for that city of about 500,000, a death rate per year of about 5000 per year. Now THAT would really be scary! (I think that the actual figure is more like 200 per year but even that is scary. And I think the people who live in the area where these deaths are happening would like to pull out, if they could.)

So the figure for Washington is from some right-wing, (or left-wing?) nut who can't even do simple arithmetic

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